12 Year old Battle for 1.8 Inches of Samsung TV: Brilliant Case Study on Consumer Rights In India
If the customer is king, then he won’t even give an inch…..1.8 inch to be precise.
This can be treated as a brilliant case study on protecting and nurturing consumer rights in India. A customer from Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh fought a lonely battle for 12 years against $232 billion worth Samsung; all for mere 1.8 inches of TV. He lost the case, but the consumer rights movement in India won.
On April 18, 2003, Ashok Chaurdia from Ratlam, MP, bought a 29-inch color television from Samsung. After being delivered, he did what very few of the customers had ever done: He brought out his measuring tape, and calculated the exact length of the viewing area of the screen. He found that it’s 27.2 inches, which was 1.8 inches less than what Samsung had advertised.
In 2004, Ashok filed a case in the court, claiming that Samsung has cheated him using false advertisement.
The case dragged on for 12 years; In 2005, a trial court issued bailable warrants against Samsung India’s managing director and general manager. In 2008, Samsung petitioned to quash this case, however, High Court refused the petition as it found that the company had indeed cheated the customer.
Hearing resumed in August this year, when Supreme Court offered Ashok a replacement TV from Samsung to end the case, but he refused.
In the first week of August, Supreme Court finally quashed the case, but not before ordering all TV manufacturers to correctly inform the actual viewing size of the screen, so that such discrepancy doesn’t occur again.
As per Samsung, the shortfall of 1.8 inches occurred, because Ashok had measured the end to end points of the actual viewing area, whereas as per the brochure, the length of the TV was measured as “the dimensions of the television picture tube as the diagonal linear dimension from one extreme end to the other”.
Note that the TV in this case was the old cathode ray tube and not the flat paneled LCDs which are the norm now. Out of 29 inches of the picture tube, 1.8 inches was hidden from the actual viewing area due to placement of cabinet and speakers.
Samsung said in their petition, “..in accordance with Bureau of Indian Standards specification…, as also customary market practice in the television industry, the brochures in respect of televisions specify the dimension of the television picture tube as the diagonal linear dimension from one extreme end to the other.” Samsung had also described the case as “frivolous”
When The Customer Is Right
However, even if we believe Samsung’s explanation, there is no way they should have advertised the TV as 29 inches. In case the viewing area is only 27.2 inches, then they should have advertised the same.
When Supreme Court offered a new 29 inch LCD TV as a replacement, Ashok refused to accept that because in case he did, then it would had appeared as a case of blackmail to get better deal.
His lawyer said, “There was an offer made in the court for settling the case but the complainant was not interested in any settlement. We did not want money from them. We were fighting the matter in the larger public interest. He was espousing a larger public cause and did not want to be branded a blackmailer, so he was not willing for any compromise,”
The Supreme Court finally quashed the case because they found merit in Samsung’s argument that it was not, after all, a case of cheating but misunderstanding.
Ashok Lost But Consumer Won
In their judgment, Supreme Court has firmly ordered that all TV sellers should specify only the length of the actual viewing area, not the entire picture tube.
The 12 year old battle of Ashok for 1.8 inches of TV will always remind us that if the customer is right, then the brand, no matter how big they are, have to listen and justify.
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[Sources: 1, 2, 3]